Peanut company tied to salmonella outbreak to resume operations

FILE - An Aug. 10, 2005 file photo shows the peanut butter production line at Sunland Inc's peanut plant in Portales, N.M. (AP Photo/Albuquerque Journal, Richard Pipes) AP

PORTALES, N.M. Sunland Inc., the New Mexico peanut butter company that was shuttered after a nationwide salmonella outbreak, is scheduled to resume peanut processing on Tuesday.

Company spokeswoman Katalin Coburn says officials are eager to begin shelling and processing this year's crop, which is about 98 percent harvested.

She says the company hopes to resume making peanut butter by the end of the year.

Sunland, the country's largest organic peanut butter processor, closed its operations in Portales and began a top-to-bottom scrubbing in late September after salmonella was found in peanut butter it made for Trader Joe's. Forty-one illnesses in 20 states were linked to the peanut butter.

After recalling Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter, the company issued subsequent recalls of hundreds of products, including cashew and almond butters, raw nuts and other products made with Sunland ingredients such as cookies and ice cream.

A full list of recalled products can be found on the FDA's website.

Earlier in November, a report from the Food and Drug Administration that was released following an investigation into the plant found samples of salmonella tied to the outbreak, in addition to evidence of improper handling of products and other potentially unsafe practices.

The FDA also said Sunland knowingly shipped portions of lots that the company's own tests found may have been contaminated with salmonella, a charge Sunland denied.

"At no time in its twenty-four year history has Sunland, Inc. released for distribution any products that it knew to be potentially contaminated with harmful microorganisms," a company spokesperson said at the time.

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